It’s a conversation that takes place in every agency or design studio there is. It’s debated endlessly by designers, strategists, and project managers. In the end, there’s only one answer that makes sense. Content first, design second.

We know, we know. As a digitally focused design studio it’s hard for us to admit, but in our hearts we know it’s true. The fact is, we’ve been doing this for too long to go about it any other way. Every project we take on at Harlo is led by three things: the brand, the strategy, and the content

Content is the Story, Design is the Medium

We’re in the business of telling stories for brands. It’s a bit cliche, but it’s true. Every project we work on blends content and design together to guide users through a digital product. To do so, we need to know where they are going and what they’ll see when they get there.

Consider it for yourself. Picture a website with no words or content, just a collection of nameless lines, buttons, and boxes. Where would you click?! Where would it take you?!

Now imagine the opposite, a plain text website with only hyperlinks. It might not pretty but at least you’d leave with information. The point is, design alone can only go so far.

Content provides the base for the story we are telling or the message we need to get across, while design makes sure people know what we are trying to say. Design accents and emphasizes, providing the peaks and valley’s that make every story interesting. Together they form a fuller picture of the brand and its beliefs.

Content is More Than Words, It’s Everything

A lot of times when we talk to clients about content they only think in terms of copy, but it is so much more! Think of everything else you see on a website. You have infographics, pictures, videos, and interactive elements that all feed into the narrative. They’re also all assets we want to have determined before we start designing.

What’s the best way to make sure you have the content you need for a compelling website? Building out a content strategy ahead of time. A content strategy takes into account your customers, brand, and platforms and proposes content that best fits your narrative. Our content strategists work with clients to filter the stories and messages they want to tell and share them in ways your users will be interested in.

We can’t reiterate this enough, content can make or break a site. We think we’re pretty talented designers (and our clients tend to agree). But if the assets you provided us can’t tell you’re story there’s not much we can do. It’s why we offer content production services of our own, we want the site we make for our clients to be perfect in every way.

Content First Saves Time and Headaches

We’ll put this piece last because even though it’s not the most important reason to lead with content, it also kind if is the most important reason. It’s true, we’re all about creating an amazing website that tells compelling stories. However, we’re also a business, and that means time is money.

When content leads design we’re able to get sign off on what will be on a page before we design it. That means we can minimize surprises like text that overruns its box or god forbid place holder text going live. Sign off also reduces the number of text edits that will happen on design documents. While there’s bound to be some modification, avoiding new mocks for every single edit can save a boatload of time and frustration.

Also, even though designers want to have as much freedom as possible, they’re also incredibly happy to see the words “Final Content” on a content document. The structure actually gives them the freedom they need to dig in and get to work. They know exactly what they have to work with, as well as the narrative they need to move users through.

Content first design is an important part of our process at Harlo. Our years of experience building digital products for clients informs the importance we place on having great content. Whether it’s copy, photos, videos, or anything else, it has to engage and impress the consumer. The more thought out the content is, the better the design will work.

If you want to know more about our creative digital services feel free to contact us here: